As we well know, Windows 8 is meant to take advantage of the touch-screen interface, and subsequent Windows 8 optimized apps follows that functionality. Many traditional (read: non-touch) laptops and ultrabooks have to put in workarounds in order to be able to navigate through Windows 8 without the benefit of a touch screen. The Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 is one of the first to successfully marry a touch screen (for Windows 8) and ultrabook components. It’s one of the first laptops to feature both full Windows 8 compatibility and a decent price, just under $700. For that it earns our Editors’ Choice for entry-level ultrabooks with touch-screens.
Design and Features
The VivoBook looks like a standard 14-inch laptop, with a 1,366 by 768 resolution touch screen. It has a dark brushed metal lid, and a matte silver keyboard deck. The Windows 8 Start screen is snappy whether you use the touch screen or the trackpad, but it’s much more intuitive with the touch screen. That screen is bright and clear. Screen viewing angles on the LCD screen aren’t quite as wide as they would be on a system with a more expensive IPS panel, but they are sufficient for a single user. Some critics will call out that the 1,366-by-768 screen isn’t full 1080p HD resolution, but 1,366 by 768 is sufficient for use with today’s apps and websites, and the lower resolution makes text larger and easier to read without having to use glasses. 1080p videos scaled down to fit the 720p screen played just as smoothly as they would on true 1080p laptops.
The VivoBook S400CA-UH51 comes with a 3rd-generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB of memory, and a 500GB hard drive with 24GB caching mSATA SSD. The SSD lets you boot the VivoBook from a power off to the Start screen in about 12 seconds, which is likely much faster than the laptop or desktop you’re replacing. Waking from sleep mode only takes a few seconds.
The one-piece trackpad below the keyboard has a marking to denote right and left clicks, but otherwise works like most multi-touch trackpads. You can use two fingers to zoom, stretch, and tilt on the trackpad or on the ten-finger touch screen. The capacitive touch screen is more convenient to use while in the Windows 8 interface, while the trackpad is a better choice for older apps and the desktop mode. Desktop mode works like the older Windows 7 used to. The trackpad and ten finger touch screen both have full Charms support, so this makes the VivoBook 400CA a prime PC to learn the Windows 8 interface. Asus includes a Smart Gesture utility so you can turn these functions off if you simply want a mouse-like trackpad.
The VivoBook 400CA has a much more solid feeling touch screen than the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100. The solid VivoBook exhibited no wobbling when we used the touchscreen, which makes it easier on the eyes and fingers. It remains to be seen if Microsoft will backtrack and allow Windows 7 installs over Windows 8 equipment (like they did with Vista and XP), but for the time being Windows 8 is the only Windows operating system you can buy on most new consumer PCs.
The full-sized black chiclet keyboard isn’t backlit, but is comfortable to type on. One other minor nit while we’re at it: Conventional wisdom dictates that the row of function keys above the keyboard should work first for their primary function (volume, screen brightness, sleep, etc.), then F1-F12 after you hold down the Fn key. On the VivoBook 400CA, you need to hold the Fn key to use the primary functions. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s counterintuitive, like having to hold down the shift key to type lower case letters. Otherwise, the rest of the keys are where you’d expect them to be, plus the system doesn’t have miniature arrow keys, as on the non-touch ultrabook in the same price class, the Acer Aspire S3-391-6046.
The VivoBook S400CA-UH51 has a tapered chassis, evoking the slimness of the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch, but this is a larger, thicker system at about 0.8 by 13.5 by 9.5 inches (HWD) and weighs in at 4.4 pounds. It has to be thicker and heavier to accommodate the touch screen, so it’s a fair tradeoff. Besides, the 14-inch screen has larger glass panel and therefore has to be heavier. The VivoBook isn’t as thin and light compared to some other laptops and ultrabooks like the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R5102F, but the VivoBook makes for a very good “around the house” laptop. The system is comfortable to use on your lap, plus it is stable on most horizontal surfaces, certainly more stable than the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT.
Asus pre-loads a few apps, including Skype, a few Xbox Live games, and a couple of Asus utilities like calculator and a conversion utility. Aside from that, the desktop mode and Windows 8 Start screen are unencumbered by bloatware. This is nice, as it keeps the clutter down. The system comes with a standard one-year warranty with 24/7 tech support. The system also comes with 3GB of Asus WebStorage online cloud storage for three years. 3GB isn’t a lot, but it’s certainly enough to keep a year’s worth of your school documents together and backed up safe away from your laptop.
You wouldn’t expect great performance in a less expensive system, but in this case you’d be wrong. The VivoBook’s Core i5-3317U processor is the same one we’ve seen in systems costing over $1,000, so the VivoBook made a great showing at our benchmark tests. It finished the PCMark 7 test (which simulates general day-to-day work) and our Photoshop CS6 test (photo manipulation and editing) at the top of the budget class. About the only test it doesn’t run away with is the battery rundown test: the VivoBook just tops four hours (4:18), while other systems like the Acer Aspire S3-391-6046 almost makes it to five (4:47). Granted, the Acer Aspire S3 doesn’t have a touch screen to draw power.
Compared to other laptops, the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 comes in with great bang for the buck due to its high-performance processor, large amount of storage, touch screen, and above all its sub $700 price. The VivoBook far outperforms ultrabooks priced at the $899 or above. While it doesn’t have the battery life (or pricing) to unseat our budget laptop Editors’ Choice, the Acer Aspire V5-571-6891, the VivoBook S400CA-UH51 certainly has the chops to become our new Editors’ Choice for entry-level ultrabooks with touch screen. In the ultrabook category, it’s worth noting that the mainstream EC costs almost $200 more, where you would expect more battery life to be part of the equation. At the entry level, the Asus simply gives users what they need for a better Windows 8 experience, at a fair price.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51
Compare the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 with several other laptops side by side.
More laptop reviews:
|Processor Name||Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Type||General Purpose, Ultraportable, Ultrabook|
|Processor Speed||1.7 GHz|
|Screen Size||14 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||524 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc